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What to do about your Sweet Tooth

Heinen’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Todd Pesek has some good news for your sweet tooth: it’s perfectly acceptable to honor it with chocolate!

But, he wants you to know that not all chocolate is created equal. Dr. Todd recommends steering clear of sugary chocolate and instead, choosing one with “cacao” as the base ingredient. In other words, really dark chocolate.

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Cacao (pronounced “cu-COW”) is made from the fermented, dried seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree.

As one of the Functional Foods on your Club Fx Top 100 Foods list, cacao boasts the following benefits:

  • Has more antioxidants than most green tea
  • Is one of the highest dietary sources of magnesium
  • Contains tryptophan to support a healthy and balanced mood
  • May help with reduced blood pressure, improved blood vessel health and elevated HDL (“good”) cholesterol

To enjoy these benefits, you’ll want to aim for at least 70% cacao—a number typically listed on the front label of higher quality chocolate. The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter and intense the flavor—and that’s a good thing because it means there’s more cacao and less room for other ingredients like sugar. 

What If You Don’t Like Dark Chocolate?

Boy can I relate!

Years ago, a dear friend offered me a piece of chocolate and I happily accepted. Yes I have a sweet tooth, but besides that, I certainly didn’t want to hurt her feelings. 😉

I took one bite and my taste buds immediately retaliated as if to shout: “WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO ME HERE MEL?!”

What my friend failed to mention was that the chocolate was really dark (I’m talking bitter and borderline offensive to my buds). Poor Carla, she didn’t know that at the time, my idea of chocolate was a Reese’s peanut butter cup. So imagine my surprise when I bit into something that was on the extreme opposite end of the taste scale.

You Can Learn to Love Dark Chocolate!

Are you a member of the sweet tooth club too? Is milk chocolate your sweet of choice? Don’t worry because with a little patience and persistence, you can learn to like—even prefer—dark chocolate. Trust me, I know from experience!

Carla is so proud to hear that now when given the choice between milk and dark chocolate, I always choose dark. The darker the better for this girl!

How did I do it?

Well I can tell you it didn’t happen overnight. I made the change in a slow baby-step fashion over the course of several months.

I’m not sure if you know this, but your body comes equipped with a special power- one you’ve had your entire life and use every day. But, you may be using it in the wrong way. The power is in your preferences and cravings. It can be summed up in these ten words:

What you “feed” your body most, it will crave most.

Yes, your body craves what you feed it most! When you consistently feed it life-giving foods like fruits, vegetables, leafy greens and Functional Foods such as fresh herbs, spices, fermented foods, and cacao, you will develop preferences for these foods.

What’s more, your body will feel good, energized, nourished and satiated. And the real reward? Evidence of well-being will sprout—proof that your body prefers these life-giving foods.

From Milk to Dark

It’s probably not a good idea to go from milk chocolate to super dark overnight because your taste buds will likely hold up their collective little hands in defiance. They aren’t used to bitter, so be patient with them. Honor their preference and work your way gradually up the cacao scale over several weeks.

Start with a 55% chocolate bar like Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate Almond or even Equal Exchange Semi-sweet Organic 55% Cacao Chocolate Chips.

Next, move up to 60-65%. Two tasty choices are Endangered Species 60% Dark Chocolate + Salted Peanuts and Equal Exchange Orange Infused Organic 65% Cacao Dark Chocolate.

After a week or so, try a square or two of a 70% bar like Theo, Green & Black’s, or Hu chocolate (my personal favorite!).

If you really want to reach the top of the chocolate mountain, go for Theo’s 85% or Endangered Species Strong + Velvety Dark Chocolate 88% chocolate. Now we’re talking!

One of the best ways to enjoy real chocolate is to make it yourself! It’s super easy and takes only 15 minutes to prepare. Check out this fabulous recipe for Good-for-You Chocolate from Heinen’s Pepper Pike Wellness Consultant Andrea Slobodian. With only five ingredients, you can choose to keep it simple or jazz it up with your favorite mix-ins to really make it your own. Be prepared for an unforgettable chocolate experience!

Food for Thought …

Never in a million years could I imagine myself enjoying a piece of 88% cacao chocolate! But remember, what you feed your body most, it will crave. So cut yourself some slack, exercise a little patience and kindness, and start where you’re at. You’ll be amazed at the results!

Melanie Jatsek
By Melanie Jatsek RD, LD
Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek believes that the answer to a strong, healthy and vibrant body lies within. She graduated cum laude from the University of Akron, earning a degree in Nutrition & Dietetics and has over 20 years of experience in wellness program development, health coaching and professional speaking. As a published author of three books and registered dietitian for Heinen’s Grocery Store, Melanie offers programs, services, and tools to help Heinen’s customers take inspired action to build the healthy body they were meant to live in…without giving up their favorite foods.

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